When I was nine years old, my mother told me to control my potty mouth or my 10th birthday party would be cancelled.
It would be obvious to anyone who knows me that the party was, of course, cancelled. But it didn't teach me a lesson -- I never outgrew the habit. That's mainly because I don't want to -- I love to say f**k; it's one of my favourite indulgences. Some people try to defend their swearing with the claim that people who swear are smarter, but I'm not going to do that. I mean, it's obviously the only conclusion when it comes to my language, but more than anything, I just enjoy being bad.
My poor, long-suffering mother.
Fast forward 30 years and I am facing a similar situation with my almost-10-year-old, who is compelled to insert f**k or s**t into many of his sentences. He has two saving graces that I didn't have; firstly, he generally only swears among family when really outraged, and secondly, the rest of the time, he generally only swears when Donald Trump appears on our television screen. Naturally, I give him a free pass in the latter instance, because he's just saying what we're all thinking.
Despite this genetic interest in profanity, there's been only one time when my darling has been accused of using foul language at school.
Despite this genetic interest in profanity, there's been only one time when my darling with the face of an angel and the mouth of his mother has been accused of using foul language at school. In an unusual twist of events, he did not learn about the term 'wanker' from me, but from a teacher. He told me that the teacher had overheard him talking, and when he denied swearing, she said: "I want you to go home and think about the 'W' word. It means a lewd act". Bemused, he confided this to me at bedtime: "I'm supposed to think about the 'W' word and I don't even know what it is."
An email to the teacher confirmed that she meant wanker. I thought, FFS, all of this and it's not even a real swear word. So I replied that there had been a misunderstanding because he doesn't even know what you mean (written), and now I have to explain to him what a "lewd act" is, so thanks a f**king heap (in my head).
Days later, some jerk swerved in front of me on the road and I muttered "wanker"... and my son asked me how could I tell he was doing that in his car... FML.
Okay, so wanker may not be a nice term by either of its definitions, but the situation did make me think that there are a number of everyday expressions that have alternative meanings, and perhaps I need to pre-emptively speak to my son about some of them. As it turns out, life has a way of working out.
Donald Trump helped bring an example of one term to the world's attention last week, when a Russian dossier, claimed to have been discovered by a news website, contained sensitive information about Trump's sexual preferences; namely, that he enjoyed 'golden showers'. As the internet gleefully pointed out, urine-based fetishes can also be referred to as "watersports". So when my son later set up a social media account and listed watersports as one of his hobbies, I deleted that item quicker than you can say "Donald Trump enjoys deep-sea diving".
Then the other day, watching 'Mary Poppins' of all things, I found myself in a long conversation about how Richard is often shortened to Dick, so no, Disney did not f**k up and put a rude word in front of Dick Van Dyke's name.
When we toured a naval vessel, I was sort of proud that he burst into giggles when the tour guide mentioned seamen.
As you can tell, my parenting style is not to shy away from awkward conversations, so my son knows the basics of the birds and the bees. Which is why when we toured a naval vessel, I was sort of proud that he burst into giggles when the tour guide mentioned seamen. At least he had been listening to me.
Uranus is another term that elicits laughter from my once-upon-a-time innocent child, but that's mostly thanks to Ellen De Generes's parody clip of The Martian, which is actually called "Stuck on Uranus". At least there was some science in the conversation we had about it.
Here are some other questions I've answered recently: "Why is it called a Doodle Book?" and "Why did James call his brother a tool?"
I know I'm not the only parent who faces these definition issues. Last year, Carrie Bickmore announced that her son calls his baby sister "beaver", which they've allowed him to continue to do, while they all have a chuckle each time he says it. Sometimes, it's best to let them work it out on their own.
Like the time my brutal honesty reached a limit, when my son asked for an explanation of the following joke in the tennis lesson scene in 'Clueless':
Amber: "My plastic surgeon doesn't want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose."
Dee: "Well, there goes your social life."
Me: *snorts out loud* (because it's still funny the 1000th time).
Son: "Why is that funny?"
Me: "Tennis is hilarious."
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